"I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well."
-Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


It's slightly easy to become obsessed with the ancestry thing, especially when you're finding cool stuff.  I have so many hints popping up that it will take hundreds of hours to even look at them all.  The cool thing is that the more hints you look at, confirm, and weed out... the more hints that pop up.  Here's what I've discovered since yesterday.
1. It's much easier to find information on people who had money and property.
2. Surprisingly enough, I have at least one line of ancestors that had enough money and influence to be in the history books.  The Birdsong branch of the family (my Grandma McCarty's mother's maiden name was Birdsong) has been fairly easy to trace so far.  I don't know why, but I had in my head that Birdsong was Native American.  I was WAY off.  When I got all the way back to the 1600 & 1700's I discovered John Birdsong (and his son John Birdsong II and his son John Birdsong III) that were majors and captains in the American Revolution, are in the history books as opposing England & fighting for the American Revolution, were members of the House of Commons, helped establish government in South Carolina, had lots of kids & property and... slaves.  Y'all, I discovered wills that specified which children should receive which slaves upon their father's death.  What in the actual hell?  (excuse my language here, but we are talking about records that put a monetary value on another human being and who they- and their offspring- shall legally belong to.  cursing seems appropriate.)  I learned the same things about American history in school as the rest of you and I know that slavery was real.  intellectually I understand that.  I just found some sort of strange comfort in thinking that my ancestors were too poor (and maybe even moral) to actually own other human beings.  I was wrong, at least about this branch.  What a kick in the gut... and I'm just a middle class white girl in 2017. 
So John Birdsong was my 8th great grandfather (which I feel pretty confident about given all the census records, property records, wills, etc. that list dates, relatives, locations, etc.), but after that I'm not 100% certain.  One record says Heinrich Vogelsang Birdsong was his father and that he was born in Germany.  Wait, what?  That makes total sense.  Vogel means bird in German.  Duh.  They moved here from Germany and "Americanized" their last name.  My Ancestry subscription doesn't cover foreign records, so I'm not able to look further and verify that Heinrich was in fact the father of the John Birdsong that I'm related to (but my hunch is that there are records to discover).  I may upgrade to access that information in the future, but for now I have plenty of other things to discover.
I have wondered how that line of the family went from a plantation with hundreds of acres of tobacco crops, cash, livestock, slaves, heirs, and political influence and wound up at my Great Grandma Belzoni Birdsong Stanfield- the wife of what most in my family assumes to be a moonshiner in the hills of Oklahoma (and later suddenly moved to Oregon).  I can't say for sure (though maybe there is more to discover regarding this), but I have found that many years after the Revolution there was a legal petition by the widow of John Birdsong for compensation for revolutionary services that states (with witnesses) that she had nothing left, no means of supporting herself, and required the compensation that he never received as a Revolutionary soldier in order to survive.  After that there are more and more relatives that show up in census records moving west to Tennessee and Arkansas.  So interesting.
All of that information was really unexpected, so I found myself caught up in the legalities of who these people where.  Even so, I can't help but take a step back and look at them (especially the women) through a more personal lens.  Y'all, they were getting married at 13, 14, 15 years old and having babies for the next 30 years.  It wasn't uncommon to see a child that was born and died in the same year.  Or a child with a birth date, but who is not listed again in any records.  Or a confirmed death of a child at 5 or 10 years old.  I find that sometimes I just click away and gather information as quickly as I can, other times I stop and let it soak in.  These women were my people and if the only way I can ever really know them is to stop and acknowledge the names of their children, well, then that's what I'm going to do.

Let's finish with some photos of our weekend.
 We had planned to go camping for the weekend, but with the threat of severe weather and a general desire to stick around the house, we stayed home for Drew's birthday weekend.  Only my husband would request a work project for his own birthday.  My raised vegetable beds are awesome, but the back side gets quite muddy  and nasty when the weather is wet.  At one point in the past I had mentioned how nice it would be to have it decked.  Drew pulled that out of the files of his mind and set his sights on decking.

 While Drew worked up a sweat building that deck, Eleanor & I laid by the pool... the Minnie Mouse kiddie pool.  AKA, the dog's new giant water bowl. 
 She wasn't a fan of actually getting IN the water. 
 But was quite content to sit on the bench and splash her feet in the water. 
 It was ridiculously humid on Saturday and Eleanor's hair just got better and better.  Oh, the body curls! 
 Lunch under the umbrella.  (Side note: we went three weeks without any dairy and Eleanor's constipation issues didn't get any better.  She's back on cheese and couldn't be happier.  We'll just do prune pouches- because apparently she will eat anything if it comes in a pouch- and Miralax as needed.) 
 John stopped by to tell Drew happy birthday and we all took a break to eat Otter Pops (Drew's other birthday request).  He's easy to please. 
 Eleanor spent most of her pool time gathering things from the yard (including sticks, rocks, leaves, and scraps of wood from Drew's project) and throwing them in the pool to see if they float or sink.  I was happy when her nap time rolled around because I got to kick back in my cute new swim suit (isn't it retro and fun?!), lay by our super awesome pool with the baby monitor and a book, and soak up some sunshine. 
 Weight Watchers was temporarily suspended for Drew's birthday and we took full advantage.  Not only did we eat a million cupcakes, we ate pretty much everything else in sight. 
 Sunday morning we went to church, that afternoon we played in the back yard again, and that evening we went to our first Naturals baseball game of the season. 
Did you know you can buy wine at the ball park?  You can.  And hot dogs and brats and funnel cakes and lots of other stuff. 

 Nonnie and Jim joined us for the game and Eleanor took advantage of Nonnie snuggles. 
 Eleanor was NOT a fan of the fireworks during the National Anthem and spent the rest of the game nervously asking about fireworks and declaring that the loud speaker was too loud.  (We have head phones for her.  Drew reminded me three times.  I forgot them at home.  Oops.) She was also not a fan of the mascots.  She cried when the players came out on the field and Braeden wasn't among them.  I'm not sure she was a huge fan of the evening, but she was really good and we look forward to attending other games and being more prepared next time.
Drew played a round of golf Monday morning and I had visions of Eleanor and I enjoying another day in the back yard around the pool.  She refused to get in, but wanted me to make the water "rain" so she could "lick" it.  This kid. 
 She found a lady bug and fell in love.  All was well until the lady bug flew away and she spent the next 20 minutes crying about where he went.  "Where go? Lady bug! Where go?" Really, I can only explain that he flew back to the grass to be with his lady bug family so many times before I just lose sympathy altogether. 
 Pool?  Okay.  Sunscreen required if you're going to be in the sun and water.  FULL MELTDOWN.  Backyard fun time over.  
 She had a bit of a runny nose, but really nothing big.  By Monday evening she had really red cheeks and the whining had gone to a whole new level.  By Tuesday afternoon she had a 101.7 fever.  I googled it and I'm thinking it's Fifth's Disease (which sounds awful, but isn't anything serious).  The redness has gone down a lot, but not totally gone yet.  The fever is gone, but the clingy, whiny, snuggle baby is still not feeling great.  We've stayed home and are just taking it easy.  My understanding is that once the redness shows up on her face that the contagious part is over, but we're playing it safe while she's feeling crummy. 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Y'all, I have tons of snapshots from our Memorial Day weekend at home and all the fun stuff we did, but I can't talk about any of that.  It'll have to wait because I'm currently totally obsessed with Ancestry.com.  For Drew's birthday I ordered us both DNA kits and the results came back last week.  Y'ALL!  I can't even.  I have tons of matches of people that are likely related to me in some way.  Cousins galore!  The short of it... my DNA tells me that I am 47% Irish.  I'm not surprised, given that my maiden name is McCarty, but I think it's super cool.  (Also, I can hear my Dad telling me that that just means I'm 53% Browers.  Lol) I reactivated my Ancestry.com account that I hadn't touched in years and now I can't stop.  There's so much to discover and I'm finding it nearly impossible to stay focused on one thing at a time.  I want to know it all!  I finally just picked a line and decided to follow it.  I know the least about my Grandma Whimpy's family (why was she so hush hush about her family history?! Why?!) and so I'm following that for now.  I'm currently to my 5th great grandfather, Harvey Birdsong.  He was a shoe maker and lived in Kentucky.  The 1820, 1830, 1840 census records not only keep count of family members, but ask about slaves.  I'm happy to see that Harvey's family had no slaves (or "free" colored people, since I'm pretty sure that didn't necessarily mean they were free), but I can't say if that's because he was morally committed to not owning human beings or if they were just poor.  Still, the information I'm gathering is fascinating.  Y'ALL.  I can't even.  The more I find the more hits that pop up and I'm in awe.  I only stopped to post this much because I found a 4th great aunt named Amanda.  Who knew?  Her name was Amanda Jane and they called her Mandy.  I had already decided that she was the coolest relative I have (Mandys of the family unite!) until I discovered that as of the 1870 census she was the only sibling (of 12!) that was still living at home with mom and dad.  Um, come on, Mandy.  Mid 20's and still living at home?  In a time when it seems that most women married and started having babies at 15, she was obviously the old maid of the family.  Just kidding.  Sort of.  There's not reason that I should need to know more about this woman, but now I suddenly need to know what happened to her.  Did she stay single and care for her parents her entire life (no shame there, care giving is in my blood)?  Did she ever marry?  What happened to Mandy Birdsong?  Are her great, great, great, great grandchildren living down the road from me and I don't even know it?  Y'all.  I need Eleanor to nap for hours and hours so I can continue this search.  I have to go.  Must keep discovering. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend

It's nearly Memorial Day weekend.  It's been a good week with lots of sunshine (and you all know how I love the sunshine).
Last Sunday we had our last Community Group of the semester and met for snow cones.  Because, really, who doesn't love a snow cone?  Nobody, that's who.  The 13 kiddos in our group range from not yet born to 13 years old.  Eleanor does play with the few kids her age, but she's really quite sweet on Gabe (I think he's 8 years old).  He likes to act like he doesn't like it, but he's really great with her.  She kept patting him on the back and hugging him so he tried to escape. His sweet smile says how he really feels about the attention :) 
 We have really enjoyed getting to know the people in our Community group over the last 9 months and have made some great new friends that we spend time with in and out of the community group setting.  It's really helped us plug in to our new church and become more involved.  We have fun with these people, but we are also learning and growing together in the word.  A gal from community group is the one that invited me to attend the women's Bible study this past semester and in the fall I will be co-leading a small group on Wednesday mornings.  Drew and one of the guys from our group meet for breakfast before work every other week to have a one on one Bible study.  A couple of months ago we applied for Eleanor to attend the Adventureland children's ministry (much like a Mother's Day Out) two days a week for the 2017-2018 school year.  A couple of weeks ago she got her class assignment and we're super excited for her to have this opportunity (she'll start in August).  Drew and I will also be taking the Discovery class in the fall, which is a great way to learn more about the church, missions, service opportunities, etc. and can be a great path to membership in the church.  We are grateful that we listened when God prodded us to make such a big change last summer.  He's working and it's awesome.
Braeden's last baseball game of the season.  Eleanor & Kayla, these two are quite a pair.  You should have heard the giggles! 
 I can't even tell you how many photos I took before I got one of them both looking at the camera.  It was a fleeting moment and then they were back to being silly and laughing. 
  Braeden pitched and did awesome.  It's really cool to see Kyle coach his son and it gives me flashbacks of Dad coaching the boys so many years ago. 
 Me & Misty, because we're cute :)
 Eleanor planks.  She's such a wiggle worm. 
Post game
 Thursday morning sausage & eggs for breakfast.  She was bursting with excitement.  Please tell me this makes you smile. 

 Eleanor and I bough a memorial spray for Grandma & Grandpa's headstone.  I don't know what I was thinking.  I guess I was thinking that she wouldn't think much of it, actually.  I was wrong.  I told her we were going to put flowers on Grandpa's grave, but she didn't get it.  When we left she cried and cried for Grandpa Whimpy.  I didn't know how to help her understand and my standard explanation of "Grandpa's in heaven, but this is where we come to remember him" just wasn't cutting it.  I finally just had to end the whole thing and move on with our day.  I hadn't realized it would upset her so. 
 She had gone to the cemetery with me the day before to take Alex & Emma's old flowers down and then to Hobby Lobby to buy flowers to make new ones.  She stopped and talked to an elderly woman in the floral section and when the lady asked her who those flowers were for, Eleanor said, "Emma."  She's been quite chatty about them since then.  I made these memorial sprays for the girls and we put them on yesterday. 
 Because the sun was shining and Eleanor had energy to spare, we went to the park to play.  I was having a fantastic hair day and thought you'd all need proof that my big, curly, wild, sassy hair was looking so "Mandy".  Seflie evidence.  

 Bubbling with excitement & energy. 

 The weather this weekend could be iffy, but there should also be some great sunshine and we plan to take advantage of every bit of it.  Please, enjoy your family & friends responsibly and take a moment to remember the service men and women who gave their lives so we could live ours. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

An Hour

Could someone please explain to Eleanor that a one hour is not an acceptable nap.  Remind her of how yesterday afternoon went after only a one hour nap.  Refresh her memory of the screaming and yelling and crying and general misery experienced by all. 
While you're at it, maybe mention that all this whining and fussing of late is not cool.  It's SO NOT COOL.  Peer pressure her.  Threaten her.  Whatever you have to do... just make the whining and crying and fussing STOP. 

Eleanor has been extra intense this past week and it's exhausting.  I may have shed a few tears over the sheer difficulty of keeping my cool with the irrational toddler of the house.  Toddlers are hard for me, y'all.  Toddler wrangling is not my parenting forte.  It's a good thing we love her so darn much.  Also, she's cute.  Seriously cute. 
Quick pictures before church yesterday.  
The peeking out the front door pictures is becoming a trend around here.  That's because it's sometimes the only way I can get her to stand still long enough for a picture.  But really, look how sweet her little dress is. 
 She had just peed in the potty and gotten a Minnie Mouse sticker for her victory.  She put it on her chin and told me she had a beard. 

People have asked her her name before and she would just stare at them.  Yesterday she patted her chest and said, "Name Eleanor".  (You have to know she's saying Eleanor to understand that's what she's saying, but it's still adorable.  It sounds more like "Nenore" when she says it.)  When she patted me and asked, "Name?" I just said "Mommy".  Drew said, "That's not your name."  To her it is!  She called her Daddy "Drew" the other day and my jaw dropped.  I swear, if this kid starts calling me Mandy then I may lose my mind.  I have a hard enough time when she just calls me Mom.  It's Mommy.  Call me Mommy.  You're a toddler.  You call me Mommy. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017


It's been a weird week for me.  I thought I had a bit of a camping hangover on Monday because I just had a really hard time getting going and getting anything done all day.  Eleanor was out of sorts and I was grumpy and it was just weird.  Then I realized it was only partially about readjusting after a 5 day camping trip.  It was mainly a Mother's Day thing.  It's a weird day for me.  There are just so many emotions that don't necessarily jive and fit into the "I love my kids, look at my pretty bouquet of flowers" commercial Mother's Day box. 
I have three children.  The first two died. The third was birthed by another woman. 
I miss Alex & Emma at strange times and it's not always on the days you would suspect.  Mother's Day makes my heart hurt in intimate ways that I can't really express in words.  I miss them something awful.  That's all I can say about it. 
Of course, I'm over the top grateful for Eleanor.  She is mine and my heart overflows with joy and love for this child, but I can't experience those feelings without acknowledging her birth mom.  It's a big, heavy, overwhelming emotion that I suppose I will carry for the rest of my life. 

"A child born to another woman calls me mommy.  The magnitude of that tragedy & the depth of that privilege are not lost on me."  -Jody Landers

So, yeah, it's been a weird week of emotions for me.  That's about as vulnerable as I can be right now. 

As I browsed through the photos on my phone from this week, I see that the week has mainly been about food.  I'm so exciting. 
Two weeks ago we took Eleanor off of dairy to see if that would help her constipation problems.  I think it's still too soon to say if it's working.  What I can tell you is that the child loves cheese and continues to ask for it.  Soy cheese?  Nope.  Not gonna happen.  I can't blame her there, it smells like butt.  I couldn't handle it either.  Almond milk?  Nope.  Vanilla almond milk?  Nope.  Soy milk?  Nope.  Not gonna drink any of that and she thinks it's a mean joke to make her try.  (She was drinking pediasure, but that has milk proteins so she can't have it right now.)  I was getting concerned about her getting the nutrients she needs, but I found these non-dairy yogurts.  She really likes them, they have protein & calcium & other good stuff, and if I add chia seeds then that's just more good stuff. 

As for me and my food... my weight has been pretty stable for the last few years.  I'm technically a bit over where "they" say I should be, but my body has been pretty happy there.  I pretty well eat what I want, stay active, and keep an eye on my weight.  Recently I started creeping up the scales a bit and decided I best get back on track before that 5 pounds becomes 25 pounds.  I just want to feel good, be happy, and enjoy doing awesome stuff with my family & friends... so I pay attention and try to stay in a good place for my body.  Weight Watchers has really helped Drew & I in the past, so I signed back up for a short stint of Weight Watchers and we're giving it a go.  For the record, I am allotted 30 points a day.  (Drew isn't officially doing the program, he's just eating what I give him.) 
These protein shakes have been fantastic for Drew & I because they are low calorie & low carb, but high protein (for WW followers, that means that one shake is only 2 points and that's TOTALLY a good thing).  They really help keep me full for longer and keep me from over eating during the day.  I'm a grazer, so I need all the help I can get.  Wet get ours at Sam's Club and they are about $16 for a 12 pack, but I think you can buy 4 packs in the nutrition/supplement section of Walmart or Target. 
I do still eat throughout the day (because, hello, I like to eat), but I'm trying super hard to make better decisions.  My favorite lunch this week has been a roll up with two slices of hickory turkey, a bit of mayo, and a handful of spinach with a gala apple on the side.  The whole plate = 2 points.  Tip that I had forgotten but am employing again: use a smaller plate.  You can fill up a smaller plate and your eyes will tell you that you have a full meal.  If I had put this on a full size plate, my eyes would have said, "Yeah, but where's the rest of it?"  

 I had a hair appointment Thursday and, since I was by myself, I treated myself to Panda Express on the way home.  I wanted to make a better selection, so I looked up my choices & point values before I got there.  I don't even want to tell you what my normal selection would have cost me.  A lot.  Tons.  Like, can't eat for the next 2 days kind of points.  Not worth it.  So I ordered a small broccoli beef and patted myself on the back for making such a great decision.  I actually laughed out loud when they handed it to me.  Y'all, this little box fit in the palm of my hand.  I suppose that it's a normal sized portion, but it's a fraction of what I would normally have eaten.  I must admit, though, that I felt satisfied with this small portion and one egg roll that totaled 11 points. 
 Other things I'm doing with my diet (for my own reference down the road when I need a refresher):
  • eat lots of fruits & veggies (they are 0 points and often satisfy my need to just eat something)
  • drink lots of water
  • flavored coffee creamer isn't worth it & I can survive without coffee
  • protein helps keep me full so that I don't crave as much of the starchy carbs that I mindlessly snack on
Eleanor is a decent eater, but it's hit and miss.  I got a bit over confident when she was younger because she was such a great eater.  Now she's pickier and I sometimes struggle to think of new things that I can feed her and how to give her all she needs (especially without dairy).  One thing I absolutely don't want to do is get into a food battle with her.  If I know anything about my daughter, it's that telling her she has to do something is just a really great way to guarantee that she won't do it.  (She's is her mother's daughter.)  I read an article the other day that claims these words as the simple solution.  "You don't have to eat it."  Article HERE

...Ellyn Satter’s groundbreaking 2000 book Child of Mine: Feeding With Love and Good Sense, and it was literally a life-changing read. Satter, a registered dietitian nutritionist and family therapist, promotes a “division of responsibility” for meals: the parent decides when to eat, what to serve, and where to serve it, and the child decides whether and how much to eat

I've sort of taken that approach with Eleanor anyway, but I'm being a big more mindful about it this week.  So even if I'm pretty sure she won't like something, I put it on her plate anyway.  When she protests I just say, "You don't have to eat it".  That wasn't quite enough for her and she wanted it completely out of her area, so I just showed her that if she doesn't like it then she can put it "right here" (the cup holder of her tray).  She was satisfied with that option and took the time to separate the things she does like from the things she doesn't.  There wasn't a fuss and no food was thrown on the floor.  She never did chow down on the blueberries or the green beans, but when it became a non-issue I caught her take a bit of each.  She didn't like it and didn't continue, but she tried and it that's good enough for me right now. 

 Our Ft. Smith friends Stacey & Punky and their youngest son stayed at our house last night.  It was fun to visit with them and just hang out.  I didn't take a single photo, but Stacey took this photo of Eleanor this morning because I'm so impressed with the portrait setting on the new iPhone 7plus camera.  Ain't she pretty?